We often get asked: are watch winders safe? or will using a watch winder damage my watch? So, we’ve done some research to find out the true answer to the question of whether a watch winder is harmful to a watch.
Good quality watch winders, in general, will not cause damage to your automatic watch. The watch winder movements keep the mainspring of the watch wound, just as it would if it was worn on the wrist. However, poor quality or incompatible winders may not be safe for the watch due to magnetization of the watch, constant engagement and excessive wear of the slip clutch.
Before we fully answer the question of if watch winders are safe, we need to quickly review how a watch winder works. Most luxury watches are automatic and operate without a battery. They keep themselves wound by the movement on your wrist. If the watch is not worn regularly, it will fairly quickly stop working, normally after 72 hours. The body of the watch contains weights, springs, rotors, mechanisms, gears etc. The movements keeps the mainspring wound and the subsequent energy powers the watch. A watch winder is mains- or battery-operated device that holds the watch in a casing and gently rotates or rocks the watch to mimic it being worn on the wrist. Each watch winder brand has different movement options, turns per day and pause functions.
Do watch winders actually wind up a watch?
There is a common misconception that a watch winder will wind a watch. This is not true. A watch winder will keep the watch wound at the level the mainspring was wound at when it was placed in the winder. Normally, an unwound watch will need about 30-40 manual winds to fully wind the mainspring. During the day, depending on how much movement and activity there has been, the watch should generally stay wound and at optimal performance. A watch winder will keep the watch operating at that level. Every now and again, the watch will benefit from a few extra winds of the crown.
Why do some people think watch winders damage watches?
There are a couple of argument for watch winders damaging watches.
Firstly, simply keeping the watch components, gears and mechanical parts in constant use and under tension for longer wears them down quicker and reduces the lifespan of the watch. Giving the watch a rest, they say, should help to give longevity to the watch winder mechanisms and thus help the watch last longer.
A second argument is that watch winders use a full axial rotation, which can cause torque forces on the watch that it wouldn’t usually experience if it was worn on the wrist. It is this extra stress, they argue, can cause damage to the mechanisms inside the watch.
However, most watches are made to be worn on the wrist most of the time. If it holds true that any watch winder, per se, could damage a watch due to the torque and stress of continued winding, then surely the same would be true of wearing the watch on your wrist? So, by this logic, watch winders are actually mimicking how the watch should be worn.
Also, winding the watch regularly actually causes the lubrication of the gears and internal mechanisms and prevents clogging, allowing smooth performance of the watch.
As for the second argument – someone with a very active job, or who moves around even a little bit, is likely to put increased torque on the watch versus the gentle motion of a watch winder rotor.
So, watch winders probably put less stress on the mechanisms than an active person wearing a watch on the wrist.
So, are all watch winders safe?
Don’t be fooled by the above to thin that all watch winders are safe. There are a couple of things to be aware of with watch winders, which could lead to damaged watches.
And it usually comes down to choosing a low-quality, cheaper, watch winder, or using one that is incompatible with the watch or watches you own.
These to issues are overwinding and magentization, which we’ll discuss below.
Can a winder overwind a watch?
A watch winder should not be able to overwind a watch, per se. Just as you should not be able to overwind your watch by winding it manually.
Watches have a slip-clutch in place which ensures the main spring does not get overwound.
So, the main spring is unlikely to be damaged through overwinding.
However, constant engagement of this slip-clutch through overwinding could lead to excessive wear and tear on the slip-clutch itself. This could cause damage to this part of the mechanism over time.
So, there is a risk of damage to the slip-clutch if consistent overwinding is happening.
However, so long as the correct watch winder is chosen for your specific brand, and you are turning it at the correct TPD and for the correct amount, this excessive engagement of the slip-clutch should not happen and no damage should be caused.
Can watch winders magnetize watches?
Now, there is a small chance that your watch winder could cause harm to your watch through magnetisation. The electric motor and magnet within the watch winder can produce a small magnetic field which could affect the watch by causing the hairspring to get sticky.
This could lead to the watch being erratic and fairly rapid inaccuracies in the watch’s timekeeping.
We’ve heard the stories of many people who have bought cheaper products which seem to have imparted this effect onto their watches. This is clearly not a good thing and something you want to avoid.
The good news is that a good-quality watch winder from a reputable brand should include a shroud or shield (usually a steel frame) which absorbs the small magnetic fields and protects your watch from this magentization effect.
So if you purchase a high-quality winder, you should not have to worry about the watch winder magnetizing your watch.
Can an incompatible winder damage my watch?
Possibly, yes. If you choose a watch winder that is incompatible with your watch, you may be overwinding the watch, causing the slip-clutch to be engagement constantly. As discussed above, this could lead to excessive wear and tear of this part of the watch mechanisms.
But, can’t watches be damaged if not wound anyway?
Keeping the components of a watch lubricated is essential. However, all watches and mechanisms are different and most will benefit from the use of a watch winder.
If a watch is worn sporadically and not kept working, the mechanisms will sit dormant. This could lead to lack of accuracy and also expensive repair bills.
A watch may not necessarily be damaged, but a worn and working watch is better than a sat dormant watch!
How do I make sure my winder is not damaging my watch?
It is important to make sure that the watch winder you choose is compatible with the watch or watches you have. Watch companies will assist in informing you the movements and turns required for your watch to be able to choose the correct watch winder. This available information shows how the watch companies believe a watch winder is a useful if not essential piece of kit.
If you use an incompatible watch winder, there is a risk that it could damage your watch, which we will talk about below.
So, are watch winders safe?
Bad quality winders do exist. And you need to stay clear of these. They could be harmful to your watch due to the reasons we’ve discussed above:
- Inaccurate TPD leading to overwinding of the watch and excessive wear on the slip-clutch
- Magnetization of the watch from the motor and magnet
Don’t be tempted by cheap imports or from companies that you have not researched.
However, a good-quality watch winder that is compatible with your watch should not damage your watch. And the consensus from the main watch brands and winder manufacturers is that watch winders are safe to use.
Hopefully, we’ve helped you answer the question of whether watch winders are good or bad, and given you some food for thought on what to think about to make sure your watch winder does not damage your watch.